I recently became nostalgic while working on an old PC which made me think of this blog I created so long ago. I am reviving a Dell Dimension E521 that I got from a friend many years ago and subsequently used as a Windows Home Server for several years. I thought it would be fun to breath some life into it with a couple hardware upgrades and installing a lightweight Linux distribution. I could then use it as a backup-backup-backup home computer for simple stuff like browsing and streaming.
- Removed: 10 pounds of dust and detritus
- Removed: (1) Spinning hard drive (details tbd)
- Replaced with: (1) Samsung 840 Series 2.5 inch 120GB SATA III internal Solid State Drive (SSD) MZ-7TD120BW (for Lubuntu)
- Removed: (1) Western Digital WD Green WD10EADS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive (put it in my main rig)
- Left in place: (1)Western Digital WD Green WD10EADS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive (for Data)
- Left in place: (1)PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS500D 500W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply.
- Removed: (1)AMD Athlon 64X2 3800+ 2.0 GHz Socket AM2 65W
- Replaced with: (1)AMD CPU Athlon 64X2 6000+ 3.0GHz Socket AM2 ADA6000IAA6CZ 89W ($9 on ebay!)
- Added: (1)EVGA 01G-P3-1556-KR GeForce GTX 550 Ti (Fermi) FPB 1GB 192-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card (from a pile of retired hardware)
- Borrowed: (1) Backplate from EVGA GeForce 9800 GT DirectX 10 512-P3-N973-TR 512MB 256-Bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
- Added: (2) Sticks of RAM for a whopping total of 4GB (details tbd)
- Added: (1) Case fan (from pile of retired hardware; rear exhaust)
- Left in place: (1)CD-ROM (details tbd)
- Left in place: (1)Floppy (details tbd)
Yes, a GeForce GTX 550 Ti will j-u-u-u-u-u-st fit inside the case.
You may recall that the Dell Dimension E521 is a BTX form factor and contains a large aluminum heat sink with a fan mounted in plastic shroud to manage CPU and case heat. Space is already tight and the cpu-heat-sink-fan-shroud-thingy makes it even tighter. Two things worked to my advantage to be able to install the the GeForce GTX 550 Ti.
Second, I was able to easily "modify" the card to fit into the case. I'm not talking hacksaws and Dremels, but something more elegant. The problem is that the BTX standard puts the PCI-E slot close to the CPU socket as part of it's thermal management layout. That was fine in 2007 but graphics cards got fat and power hungry since then.
The first thing I did was remove the plastic shroud surrounding the top of the GTX 550 Ti. That bought me the space I needed to clear the heat sink/shroud when installing the card. The GeForce GTX 550 Ti uses one heat-sink with one fan and with the plastic shroud gone they clear the large heat sink/fan/shroud thingy. It's also fortunate that, even with the gpu fan sitting on top of the gpu heat-sink, it still cleared the chip-set heat-sink on the motherboard (Northbridge maybe?)
The next problem was how to convert this 2-slot GeForce GTX 550 Ti into a 1-slot GeForce GTX 550 Ti. This is required because the PCI Express x16 connector in the Dell is the top-most PCI-E connector on the motherboard but the card slot area on the back of the case provides only 1 exit slot. The case would need one more card opening. So as is, the GTX 550 Ti is not compatible with the opening. To address this, I replaced the original 2-slot bracket on the GeForce GTX 550 Ti with a one-slot bracket from a retired GeForce 9800 GT. These cards have 2 DVI out in the same location and the round port for S-Video on the GeForce 9800 GT aligns with the location of the mini-HDMI out on the GTX 550 Ti. Close enough *and* it worked!
GTX 550 Ti 9800 GT
After some compressed air and fresh Arctic Silver 5 on the heat-sink, it's humming along. It's been running Folding@Home at Full Power since last night (CPU is Folding at full speed. GPU Folding is on). After running for a few minutes the thermal paste flowed and the heat sink settled into place keeping the CPU right at it's maximum of 63 C.